Story and Photo
By Jack Minor
Warning of possible reduction in service, the mayors of Greeley and Evans came together to express opposition to a series of tax-cutting ballot proposals.
Evans Mayor Lyle Achziger and the city manager Aden Hogan, met with their counterparts in Greeley at the Evans Community Complex to inform the press of their concerns and opposition to Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 which are on the ballot this November.
Both Achziger and Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said if the initiatives were to pass they would be forced to make cuts in personnel. Achziger called the initiatives dangerous, saying Evans could have decreasing revenue of around $1.2 million in the first year. He said the city had already laid off 18 people because of a projected $1 million shortfall and they could be looking at similar personnel cutbacks again.
Roy Otto, city manager for Greeley, echoed Achziger’s sentiment saying the city would probably cut 96 full-time employees because of lost revenue. Otto specified that among the cuts would be the school resource officers and possibly a Fire Department rescue truck.
Norton said taxes would actually go up if the initiatives were to pass because local governments would need to raise taxes and fees to cover the cost of paying property tax on water and other utility systems.
All the officials expressed frustration over the provision eliminating all previous “de-brucing” elections. They felt that it amounted to the rest of the state overturning the will of local voters. When it was mentioned that supporters of the amendments say that TABOR was designed to include a specific dollar amount and not be open ended, Otto said, “The voters still approved it” and, “it sounds like they are saying we don’t agree with the decision a community made.”
Hogan said with the revenue shortfall, the city would not be able to mount any snow removal for routine storms, “We will just have to wait for the sun to melt it off.” He also said the complex where the meeting was held might not be able to be open five days a week.
All officials acknowledged that even with the “de-brucing” provisions the initiatives would still allow them to ask voters to approve the same issues again, however, they said the four-year limitation would make it difficult if not impossible to get bonds.
Achziger said he believed the proposals were intended to de-construct government. Norton concurred, saying he believed it was deliberately intended to reduce services, however, the problem was that people have come to expect a certain level of service that the cities would not be able to maintain.
Supporters have said that revenue for roads would not be reduced significantly as repairs are primarily paid with fuel taxes and registration revenue goes into the general fund. Norton said the tax on registration is partly used for the Highway Users Tax Fund and Greeley’s portion of the gas tax is approximately $2 million which he says doesn’t even pay for snow removal and keeping the street lights running. He said the fees are going in the opposite direction and should be doubled to pay for needed repairs.
Evans Mayor Pro-tem John Morris said the proposals could make the ballot large and unmanageable with multiple items from the county and city for each individual purchase. He also said in the case of asking approval for a new police car, the election cost could exceed the amount requested. “If we were asking for a $50,000 purchase and the election cost is $30,000, we would almost have to ask for twice what we need.” he said.
Hogan said there was also a conflict because the Evans city charter requires elections to be held in April, but the proposals mandate elections can only be held in November. He said since Evans is a home rule city he is not sure it would be constitutional to require them to change their election dates.
Norton said if the proposals were to pass they would figure out the best way to provide services but something would have to give. Both Evans and Greeley city councils have passed resolutions opposing the initiatives.